Home > Programs > Water Quality > PCBs and PMPs > Monitoring for PCBs and Pollutant Minimization Plans
Monitoring for PCBs and Pollutant Minimization Plans
Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs)

Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) are a class of carcinogenic chemicals present in the waters of the Delaware Estuary at concentrations up to 1,000 times higher than the water quality criteria. Widely used in transformers, capacitors, and other electrical equipment, the U.S. banned the manufacture of PCBs in 1976. Existing uses were permitted, however, and their chemical stability allows them to persist in the environment to this day. There are numerous sources of PCBs in the Delaware Estuary, which enter fish and other wildlife through absorption or ingestion, and accumulate in their tissues at levels many times higher than in the surrounding water and sediment and at levels unsuitable for human consumption.

Because high levels of PCBs have resulted in state-issued fish consumption advisories for certain species caught in the Delaware Estuary, these waters were and continue to be listed as impaired, requiring the establishment of a PCB total maximum daily load (TMDL). A TMDL expresses the maximum amount of a pollutant that a water body can receive and still attain water quality standards.

At the request of the three estuary states and the U.S. EPA, DRBC, working closely with its Toxics Advisory Committee and others, developed the technical basis for the Stage 1 PCB TMDLs for the Delaware Estuary (DRBC WQ Zones 2-6). The U.S. EPA established the Stage 1 PCB TMDLs for Zones 2-5 in 2003 and for Zone 6 in 2006. To support the implementation of the Stage 1 TMDLs, DRBC monitors ambient waters, sediment, and fish tissue to provide precise and defensible data on the PCB concentrations in the Delaware Estuary.

In December 2013, DRBC approved a revision to its human health water quality criteria for protection from carcinogenic effects of PCBs in Zones 2 - 6 of the Delaware Estuary. With DRBC's adoption of revised PCB criteria, it is anticipated that the U.S. EPA will establish new TMDLs (Stage 2 TMDLs) corresponding to the updated criteria.

Click the above link to learn more.

Pollutant Minimization Plans (PMPs)

In addition to checking water, sediment, and fish for PCBs, DRBC requires Pollution Minimization Plans (PMPs) to reduce or eliminate PCBs where they are known to exist. The PMP rule, adopted by the commission in May 2005, establishes a non-numeric approach requiring the track down and reduction of point source and non-point source discharges of PCBs in the Delaware Estuary. The goal of this program is to work with the regulated community to track down and clean up sources of PCBs in order to meet water quality standards and eliminate fish consumption advisories due to PCBs.

PMPs require biennial PCB sampling and submission of an annual report summarizing PCB loading reduction efforts. Recent reports show that the PMPs required by DRBC are working. The top ten dischargers responsible for 90% of the point-source PCB loading have reduced their contributions 76% from 2005-2016. This improvement hopefully will be reflected as reduced amounts of PCBs found in fish tissue in future years.

Click on the above link to learn more.